Apple has finally revealed its long-awaited augmented reality headset, the Apple Vision Pro, marking its first major hardware launch in nearly a decade.
During the announcement, Apple CEO Tim Cook described the new headset as seamlessly integrating the real and virtual worlds.
In addition to the headset, Apple also unveiled its latest iPhone operating system and introduced updates to the MacBook Air.
Scheduled for release early next year in the US, the Apple Vision Pro comes with a two-hour battery life and a price tag of $3,499 (£2,849).
The Apple Vision Pro comes at a considerably higher cost than other virtual reality headsets currently available. For instance, Meta recently announced its Quest headset, priced at $449.
While Apple touched on various topics during the announcement, including its latest operating system and hardware updates, there was little mention of generative artificial intelligence, a popular topic in the tech industry.
Following the announcement, Apple’s share price experienced a slight decline. The unveiling occurred at Apple Park, the company’s headquarters in Cupertino, California, during a developer’s conference.
Various media outlets, including the BBC, were present at the event; however, hands-on experiences with the new device are yet to be reported.
The design of the Apple Vision Pro differentiates it from other headsets currently available, resembling more of a pair of ski goggles than a traditional virtual reality headset.
Apple referred to the device as an “augmented reality” headset, which allows users to superimpose virtual objects onto the real world. Through the headset, users can access apps, watch movies, and even create documents in a virtual environment. However, the demand for this type of wearable technology remains relatively limited.
Hartley Charlton, senior editor of MacRumors, expressed some uncertainty regarding the headset’s appeal to the general public.
“It won’t appeal to mainstream consumers at first on account of its extremely high price point and immediate shortcomings as a first-generation device,” he said, “such as its separate wired battery pack.”
But he said Apple has a track record of “overcoming skepticism” about new devices and has historically encouraged people to “part with their cash to add a new gadget to their repertoire.”
In his sales pitch, Mr. Cook said the headset allows users to “see, hear and interact with digital content just like it’s in your physical space.”
Control of the Apple Vision Pro headset involves a combination of hand gestures, eye movements, and voice commands. For example, users can tap their fingers together to make selections and flick them to scroll through content.
This announcement comes just a week after Meta and Lenovo introduced new versions of their virtual reality headsets that do not overlay virtual objects onto the real world. Meta has also heavily invested in mixed reality, but the sector currently faces challenges.
According to the International Data Corporation, global sales of headsets experienced a significant 54% decline last year.
Apple’s previous major hardware release was the Apple Watch in 2015.
Thomas Husson from Forrester Research stated that Apple’s new headset might take some time to gain traction, considering the overhype surrounding the AR/VR space and the metaverse concept.
However, he mentioned that people’s willingness to pay high prices for mobile phones demonstrates the potential for unexpected market acceptance.
In addition to the Vision Pro, Apple unveiled iOS 17, the latest version of its iPhone operating system. Notable updates include “contact posters,” which display a picture of the caller on the recipient’s phone, and “live voicemail,” which provides real-time transcriptions of voicemail messages.
The new operating system also features a Check-In system that automatically notifies a friend or family member when the user arrives home and can send alerts if the user’s journey is significantly delayed.
iOS 17 is scheduled to be available in Autumn 2023.